“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” – Ephesians 4:29
Just a few months ago, Rick Warren’s 27 year old son Matthew killed himself after a long struggle with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. While many people have responded to this untimely death with sympathy and tributes, some have thoughtlessly and hatefully criticized Rick Warren on social media. In response, Warren tweeted, “Grieving is hard. Grieving as public figures, harder. Grieving while haters celebrate your pain, hardest.”
Criticism is something we have all experienced in one way or other. For many of us criticism comes naturally and has become part and parcel of our lifestyle. We criticize in a meeting, at work, while playing, during leisure and especially at home with our families. Sometimes it is done constructively with good intentions, but most often than not, it is done maliciously or in anger to hurt others. And it is usually a payback for an earlier dispute or an issue of insecurity and immaturity to feel better, stronger, and more righteous than others.
In the first three chapters of Ephesians the apostle Paul reminds the Christians at Ephesus of what their life looked like before God saved them. That life which was separated from God’s life was insensitive and hateful to others and full of self-indulgence. But God, Paul says, being slow to anger and abounding love, saved them from their sinful life into a new life in God. In the remaining three chapters he explains what this new life in God looks like.
I would like to draw our attention specifically to Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” In other words, Paul reminds them to watch what they say, and to say only things that may build up and benefit those who listen. Today, this is a good reminder for us too.
We know from experience that it is easy to criticize inconsiderately and find faults in others. Although the urge to criticize others remains a powerful temptation for most of us we can resist it with God’s help. Those of us who participate in the new life with God will not encourage any unwholesome talk in us or in others. This means that we will not only stop encouraging negative thoughts and talk, but will intentionally substitute it with thoughts and talk that builds and benefits others according to their needs and glorifies God in the process.
“Knowledge flows like spring water from the wise; fools are leaky faucets, dripping nonsense. Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim.” – Proverbs 15: 2, 4, MSG
Samuel Williams is co-founder & content director at Fluid. He is also the teaching pastor at Avenue Community Church in Toronto, Canada.